Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the threat of new sanctions against his country Wednesday, saying Iran can survive without the aid of the United States and its allies.
Ahmadinejad told NBC News in an interview that Iran was justified in barring further visits by United Nations atomic inspectors.
"We in Iran are in a position to meet our own requirements," he said.
Ahmadinejad "flatly rejected" the demand of the International Atomic Energy Agency to let its inspectors back into Iran, NBC News said. "He said he would simply not let that happen," NBC reported.
The UN Security Council imposed a fourth round of sanctions on Iran in June, saying that Tehran has refused to suspend uranium enrichment and start negotiations with the five permanent members and Germany.
Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed solely at producing nuclear energy, but the West fears its aims are military.
Asked about the apparent escalation of tensions in recent weeks over the topic of Koran burning in the U.S., Ahmadinejad said there was no conflict between the two cultures and blamed a small minority of Americans for fueling the rising anger between Muslims and Americans.
"Their interests lie in creating wars and conflicts," he said. "Koran is a heavenly book, a divine book. That was an ugly thing, to burn a holy book."
Ahmadinejad's comments came a week before he is scheduled to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.
Also on Wednesday, Iranian envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh hit back during a tense meeting of the IAEA board, saying during a heated outburst that the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, Yukiya Amano, had "completely missed the facts," diplomats said.
Ahmadinejad denied Iran was being uncooperative and said the IAEA should instead focus its attention on Israel, which he referred to as an illegal "Zionist regime," NBC reported.
"Relations between Iran and the IAEA are the lowest they've ever been," said one Western diplomat who attended the closed-door session. "Soltanieh was shouting," said another, adding Amano had responded calmly to the criticism against him.
In comments that angered Tehran, Amano told the board earlier this week that Iran's refusal to admit some experienced inspectors was hampering the agency's work.
Iran has said two inspectors it banned in June had provided false information about its activities.
It says it is within its rights to refuse inspectors under its non-proliferation accord with the UN body and the agency has a pool of more than 150 other experts it can use.
Glyn Davies, U.S. envoy to the IAEA, said Iran was making a "clear effort" to intimidate inspectors and influence them.
"It is unprecedented for a state to reject inspectors because they report accurately ... what they see and hear."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now